Barclays is predicting a global supply crunch for liquefied natural gas in 2014, thanks to resurging demand in Asia. As a result, global LNG demand growth will outstrip supply additions next year with global regasification capacity -- a measure of demand -- predicted to grow by 2.8 billion cubic feet, or bcf, per day. On the supply side, however, the bank notes that only 0.9 bcf per day will be added to global liquefaction capacity .
Growth in Asian demand will primarily be led by China with five new regasification terminals expected to become operational by the end of 2014. Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and India are also expected to contribute to the demand. In fact, all regasification plants that are expected to come online next year are from Asia, barring one .
Evidently, a tightening LNG supply would mean natural gas prices moving north. With Asian demand leading the way, it shouldn't be surprising to see prices shooting up in this region. The bottom line is that the likes of ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) and other existing LNG producers with access to Asian markets should benefit.
Exxon's Qatar and Indonesian ventures have a liquefaction capacity of 65 million tonnes per year . The behemoth is also gearing up to start LNG production at its Papua New Guinea plant by the second half of 2014, where it holds a 33% stake. With more than 90% of the $19 billion project completed , initial liquefaction capacity is expected to be 3.45 million tonnes per year. Eventually, production will be ramped up to 6.9 million tonnes a year .
Another facility coming online next year is the Queensland Curtis LNG project which is expected to add 8.5 million tonnes a year through its liquefaction facility in Curtis Island off Australia. China National Offshore Oil Corporation (NYSE:CEO) holds a 10% stake in one of the two LNG trains, along with a 5% stake in certain tenements.
Cheniere Energy's (NYSEMKT:LNG) six trains of liquefaction facilities at its Sabine Pass terminal are still under construction. The first train isn't expected to achieve initial LNG production before late 2015. However, Cheniere has already entered into fixed price, 20 year agreements with Korean and Indian gas companies . The Sabine Pass terminal, which is held through its 57.5% stake in MLP Cheniere Energy Partners (NYSEMKT:CQP), has a total liquefaction capacity of 27 million tonnes per annum through its six trains.
But there's a catch
While Cheniere Energy is assured of fixed payments, natural gas prices could stabilize and eventually fall beyond 2014. Barclays expects demand to fall gradually as Japan and South Korea, two of the largest natural gas consumers, plan to ramp up nuclear power generation . Hence, it's too early to suggest U.S. LNG exporters could benefit from increased Asian demand.
But again, that is just a narrow view of the ever changing dynamics of the global natural gas industry. Emerging economies of China, India, Malaysia and Africa could easily fill in the demand gap in the next five years.
All in all, it's fair to say that companies who are in the LNG trade will stand to benefit in the long run. Companies who have done the hard work will profit for years to come. Right now, Cheniere Energy and ExxonMobil are best placed to reap rewards in the LNG space.